Welcome to the first installment of my Land Rover Defender Project! In this series of posts, I am going to be covering the total rebuild of my Defender, as well as the back story to the project and in this post, the pre-story. This is going to be like a build-log, or b-log. Yes, that’s right people, I even managed to Dangerneer the word “blog”.
Right then, lets get into it…
Where It All Began
When I think back to where I first got the Land Rover bug, there is one particular point in my life that always comes to mind. Here I will tell this story, as I remember it. There may be details I’ve forgotten, or parts I couldn’t remember too well, but this is how it plays out in my mind. Around 1990 (I would have been 8), during the summer holidays and my Dad took me to work with him. He got a call out to Land Rover in Solihull, and I went along with him. I don’t remember what the fault was, I think the computer just needed to be switched off and on, but I do remember after the job was done we were treated to a drive around the Land Rover test area in a three door Range Rover classic. It was an amazing experience for me being in such a capable vehicle going through mud, ruts, up and down steep hills, and seeing the other Land Rovers being put through their paces. I remember a line of a mixture of Ninety and Oneten (predecessor to the Defender) vehicles, as well as the then brand new Defender, in all shapes and variations. I remember being amazed that one model of vehicle could be so many different things, when you think that most cars can only be a hatchback or an estate, or whatever. And having just seen what they can do, I was blown away. It really was a fantastic day. I must say I massive thank you to the guys at Land Rover for treating me like a VIP, and a massive thank you to my Dad for taking me along with him. That day has left an impression on me that has stayed with me my whole life.
Finally Deciding To Get A Land Rover
I actually still remember the day I made the decision to buy a Land Rover Defender, which is no mean feat for me since I can’t usually remember yesterday, and this was over ten years ago. I was sat at my desktop computer, on eBay, looking for something to replace my Ford Sierra estate. As you can see from the pictures, I was already heading in an off-road capable direction with it anyway. I needed something that could carry my dogs, Maggie and Tre, and carry tools, tow a trailer, and so on. When the timing belt snapped and wrecked the engine, I decided enough was enough, and I would buy something built for the job. My first instinct without a doubt was to look at Land Rovers, but then I saw the prices. I looked at other 4x4s, Toyota Hi-Lux, Mitsubishi L200 (I very nearly bought one, very very nearly) Ford Ranger (as I lifelong Ford fan, this was high on the list), Toyota Land Cruiser Colorado, Isuzu Trooper, and I also came close to settling on a Hi-Lux Surf too. But I always came back to a Land Rover Defender. Despite the higher prices, the more spartan interior, the reliability, the fact they like to rust a lot (which is actually the reason for this whole rebuild), and all the other reasons people don’t like Land Rovers. But I do. And it’s my life. So I took a leaf out big John Rambo’s book, “fuck ’em” I’m buying a Land Rover Defender.
The Journey To Nearly Buying A Land Rover
So, as I said earlier, I was sat at my computer looking on eBay. Back in the mid 2000s in Uist, if you wanted to buy a good vehicle for a reasonable price, you’d have to go away to the mainland to get it. This wasn’t a problem for me, in fact this opened up the whole of the UK for me. Obviously the closer the better, but when you’re buying a vehicle what difference does a few hundred miles make to get what you want. Now, my whole dilly-dallying about trying to decide what to buy took about two weeks, and remarkably in that time the prices for a 1990s, 300 Tdi Defender had shot up by nearly 100%. What was once £5000 was now £9000. I was willing to wait for the prices to come back down. In my many conversations with Land Rover owners I met a great guy, who had, at the time, a blue 300 tdi 90 with a few mods, and it just so happened he was thinking about selling it. So I got in touch with him to discuss a possible sale. We agreed a price (a very reasonable price given the way the market was going. There was one caveat, he needed to find a replacement first as he couldn’t be without a vehicle. I had the money and was ready to buy, he just needed to secure something to replace his Defender 90 with, and then it was all mine. He went away to the mainland on the plane, fully intending to drive back in his new Land Rover. All I had to do wait for the call and transfer the money, simple. The call came, but it wasn’t the call I was expecting. As with many things in the automotive world, when one thing goes up or down in price, it influences the prices of other things too. He could not find a replacement vehicle that wasn’t seemingly over-priced. He had to pull out of our arrangement. I couldn’t blame the guy really, I had seen it for myself, hence my contacting him to buy his. So it was back to eBay.
So Far Yet So Close
I was a bit frustrated. I had made up my mind, I had the money, I had arranged with my work that I could take a day off at short notice if I needed to. I had done everything I needed to, but the universe was conspiring against me. Was it a sign? Should I just buy something else? Should I just buy another Car? No! I want a Land Rover god-damn it! So, I went back to what I had been doing for the last two weeks, looking at Land Rovers on eBay, reading about Land Rovers on forums, and boring the shit out of anyone who’d listen. That may or may not include you right now. After about another two weeks, so we are on about four weeks into looking for a replacement vehicle now, I was on, yes you guessed it, eBay, and I stumbled across a brilliant looking Defender 90. It was blue, 300tdi, I can’t remember the mileage but it was good, it looked in overall good condition. It had been first bought by an Estate in the east of Scotland, for their game keeper to use. Then a builder had it for a few years, and it was currently being sold by a guy with a farm who dabbles in Land Rovers on the side, I think he took it in a part exchange. I don’t know what it was, I don’t believe in fate, but there was just this feeling that all that shit over the past few weeks all made sense now. Plus the prices had come back down, in fact the prices were even better now than they were four weeks ago. Four weeks previously this Defender would have gone for around £5000, now the price was £3000. I could have haggled and this and that, but I didn’t want to risk losing a deal again, so just said if it checks out as described in the advert, than I will pay the full asking price. This turned out to be a good move: the vehicle was located in Stonehaven, all the way over on the east coast of Scotland, and I am all the way over in the Outer Hebrides, so like an extra 50 miles out from the west coast of Scotland. I could get a plane from Benbecula airport to Inverness airport, which put me about half-way across the country. Now, this is where offering the full asking price pays off, the seller said he would load the Defender onto his trailer and tow it all the way to the airport. He would meet me there, we can do what we need to do, and I’d be on my way. Talk about helping a guy out.
The Drive Home
I arrived in Inverness (international) airport to be greated by freezing temperatures, and a lot of snow. Not usually much of a problem for someone with a Land Rover, only I didn’t have a Land Rover yet. The guy bringing it on the trailer had sent me a message to say that the roads are terrible, he’s stuck in slow moving traffic, and to phone him when I get off the plane. So I grabbed a coffee, sat outside with a smoke, and phoned him up. He was on the move, simply explained that due to the road conditions it’s slow progress, and he will call me when he’s about ten minutes away, which he estimated would be about another hour. This could potentially be an issue. You see I live on an island, and the only way in or out is either by plane or by boat. Obviously I wasn’t going back on the plane, so I had to make the ferry. The drive from Inverness to Uig, in Skye, where I needed to catch the ferry, was about a three-hour drive. On a good day. This wasn’t a good day, the driving conditions were slippery, I’d be in a vehicle I had never driven before, on a road I didn’t really know very well, and surrounded by people who probably weren’t trying to catch a ferry. This extra hour of delay would actually put me just about on the margin for missing the ferry. I had to play this smart. I went back in to the airport and got myself some supplies. I wouldn’t be able to stop on the drive to the ferry, what ever I might need, I needed to get it now. I got some food since I wouldn’t next eat until I was on the ferry. I got some bottles of juice, as well as a big bottle of water. I knew that by the time I hit the roads there would be plenty of grit salt being thrown up in the air by other vehicles, and running out of screen wash would not be ideal. I would fuel up at Tesco, and also buy some oil, anti-freeze, and screen wash while there. All I had to do now was hope the vehicle got here within the hour. An hour came and went. I don’t normally panic, but I was starting to consider where to sleep for the night (actually it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve slept in a car at the ferry terminal). Finally, the man phoned me to say he was five minutes up the road and he would pick me up out the front of the airport. Great.
When I first saw my new Land Rover Defender I had the biggest smile on my face. As the seller got closer I had to go back to poker face, I didn’t want to seem too keen. Although I’d already said I was going to pay him the full price, but that’s what you do, isn’t it? I checked the vehicle over in quite a rush. The guy selling it knew I was on a tight schedule too, he had already started taking the ratchet straps off the wheels! I knew that so long as it was complete, which it was, and it didn’t have any major issues, which it didn’t, then I’d be okay. I’d been a mechanic, panel beater, painter, and storeman for a combined seven or eight years, so I knew even if I missed something, I could deal with it. We did the paperwork, I gave him the cash, shook his hand, thanked him, and left in a hurry. That huge smile was back on my face. I had just bought my very own Land Rover Defender. I was over the moon. Delighted. Super happy.
The drive home was remarkably smooth. The landy didn’t miss a beat, the roads were more just wet than icy, and only wetter the further west I went. I was making good time, I don’t know how since I was driving a 300tdi Land Rover, but I wasn’t going to complain. Somewhere along the A87, beside Loch Cluanie, stopped for a pee. I looked up at the snow covered hill in the back ground, and decided I had just enough time to take a quick picture. One day, when the Landy is back on the road, I want to go back to this exact spot and take another picture.
I’d love to hear how you got into Land Rovers, tell me about it in the comments section